BEFORE YOU START, KEEP IN MIND THIS IS A VERY, VERY LONG POST. I've listened to the album from start to finish a couple of times since I got it in the mail, and I think I can now put up a decent first impression of my reaction to it. Keep in mind that I will most definitely need to listen to it MANY more times before I have a final opinion, much like with Trinity and Continuum (with the latter, for example, I started out with an impression of "pretty good", which over the years became "great" and even "excellent"). Also, this is by no means a formal review. Basically, I'm just going to go song by song and give my thoughts on each one, with a few closing comments to follow. So, with that out of the way, here's my initial opinion on Catalyst: 1. Inceptum: It might be seen as a bit of a cliche to start huge prog albums with the obligatory intro-track for a build-up into the first "real" song, but it's a cliche that I personally welcome. Pretty nice intro with sort of a tribal feel with the drums. The clean guitar work is as beautiful as ever (there's actually one point in the last 30 seconds or so that reminds me a little of Utopia). The last 6 seconds build up with the white noise until BOOM. 2. Catalyst: I already gave my opinion on this song when it first released as the single. Basically, it rocks, and I'll leave it at that. 3. Cynic Dreams: I remember this song from the demos, and from what I recall it was quite good back then, but it's only now that I realize just how awesome it really is. The verse riffs are absolutely crushing, the chorus is quite catchy, and the transition to a slightly faster tempo following the second one is so smooth. Also, I like the improved vocal melodies better overall. As for the lead guitar work, MY GOD is it awesome. You guys really tore it up on this one. And that calm acoustic bridge is so well placed. I'm a little shocked honestly, seeing as this song which I once thought to be "pretty good" is now practically a masterpiece in my opinion. From demo to album, this one delivers the goods. Speaking of which... 4. The Chosen Ones: Talk about songs I've been dying to hear again! This one blew me away when I first heard it back in '09, and I'm glad to say it still kicks as much ass as it did back then. The intro is mesmerizing, the riffage is killer, the vocals are well written, and that chorus... ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. The new lead you added in for the album makes it sound even more epic (if that's even possible!). Surely one of the highlights. 5. Illuminatum: Continues at a slightly faster pace from The Chosen Ones, before it becomes soft once more. Very psychedelic, I must say. The lead starting around the last 30 seconds is really cool, serving as a perfect build-up. Not much more to say, I suppose, other than nice bass work, too. It's a transitional piece, and for what it is, it works. 6. My Own Deception: WHAT A PERFECT TRANSITION! That was just flawless. Being the defining epic of the album, I had high hopes for this one, and I'd say that I'm just about satisfied. I sort of get some Opeth-meets-Nevermore vibes from this one. Moves at a pretty slow pace for a while, using the same themes from Illuminatum at times. The change at about 4:03 completely changes the feel of the rhythm, but it was such a smooth change that it works well. Guitar work is once again superb, with some interesting bass stuff thrown in as well. I get the feeling this is one I'm really going to have to listen to a few more times before I "get it" so to speak. I can tell it's quite nice, but it's bound to be a grower. 7. Into Oblivion: Of the 4 demo songs, this was the one I was admittedly the least keen on upon my first listening to them. Oddly enough, I find that I absolutely love it now. The death-growls are the most prevalent here than anywhere else on the album, switching back and forth with clean vox to provide a sort of light vs. dark atmosphere. This is probably the most aggressive song on the entire album (hell, I think it's the first Prototype song I've ever heard blast-beats in it!). 8. Impetus: Once again, not too much to say about this one, other than it sets the tone for the next song to begin. 9. Gravity Well: It pains me to say that this is where my attention started to wane upon the first listen. I recognized the verse riff as one of the samples from the soundcloud snippets posted back in 2011. There's some pretty cool stuff going on at several points, such as the switch back and forth between the clean and distorted segments, and the solos are really good, but overall this one left me a little wanting. Like with My Own Deception, I'm going to have to listen to this a bit more to really get into it. That said, even though my attention was slipping a bit, it's all good. Because the next song is... 10. The Ageless Heart of Memory: ATTENTION METAL LOVERS! We may have a serious candidate for the greatest metal song of all time on our hands!!! From the instant I heard this one back in 2009, I just knew that this was the greatest Prototype song written thus far. More than 3 years later, my first impression still stands! This song is literally PERFECT. Fast as hell, punchy, great vocals, wicked guitar solos (Kragen, you've outdone yourself on this one), the death-growls make a return in an awesome way, and that clean part starting at 4:25, and how the bass, drums, and lead guitar all come in one by one is just pure beauty. And then the theme from Cynic Dreams comes back in... words cannot describe how amazing that is to the ears. And once the distortion kicks back in, that final vocal line, "The restful sleeeeeeeeeep...." just gets me every time. That's it. The best song on the whole album and the best song Prototype has ever written, period. I swear, if you guys don't pull this one out live when you go on tour, you will have made a terrible, TERRIBLE mistake. 11. Exiled: Another mid-tempo song, but with a faster, galloping main riff. Quite nice, but it doesn't call to me as much as previous songs on the album (though to be fair, this may have something to do with just how absolutely, un-freakin-believable the preceding song was). The solo is pretty cool though, in how it starts out somewhat following the bridge-riff as a guideline, before going all over the place. 12. Communion: I recognize the main riff and background lead from the Soundcloud snippets. This is a pretty cool song to end on I suppose, with some unique guitar work and cool vocal melodies. Not entirely sure I like how it fades out though, since I typically like albums to end with a bang. It does fit I suppose. While overall I liked the album a lot, there are a few things I thought could have used some tweaking, such as the production. While certainly not bad by any means, the guitars do seem pretty loud in comparison to the rest of the mix (but hey, I am a guitarist, so I don't really mind), and sometimes have a tendency to sound a little muddy. Also, at over an hour of material, this is a lot to take in at one sitting, which means that at some points near the end I did find my concentration waning. To be fair though, seeing as this is the first release in 6 years, it certainly is better in this case to have an excess of material for an album as opposed to not enough. So, in a nutshell, did Catalyst live up to my expectations? Definitely. Some of the songs may have called to me more than others, and certain ones will take some time for me to become acclimated to, but overall I wouldn't say there's really a "weak" spot in the album. The songwriting has certainly been refined, to the point where it seriously sounds like Trinity and Continuum were written by a completely different band (in a good way, of course!). I would surely recommend this album to anyone who likes Prog Metal with an extra bit of grit. I'm going to give it an overall score of 8.75 out of 10 (yeah, pretty weird score, but I think that's just about right for my opinion so far). This may change at any time, depending on how subsequent listens prove. Long story short, great album, guys! Well worth the wait!